Saturday, August 26, 2006

A General and Lengthy Update

It is late in the evening here, and I am listening to a record of baroque music (Originalklänge des Barock, Nikolaus Harnoncourt/Concentus Musicus Wien, 1976). What with the lovely music (at present, a Bach violin concerto), the peaceful atmosphere, the proximity of my family, and my general good spirits, I am nearly overflowing with contentment. Under these conditions, it is actually rather difficult to write (I'd rather just sit and be happy), but I haven't posted in a long time. Now that we have a proper internet connection, I really should begin posting regularly again.

Concerning the internet connection, we've actually had a dial-up connection for some time (two weeks or so), but it just wasn't the same! It was only available from one computer, for one thing. I much prefer the present state of affairs (DSL, available on several computers, including my laptop).

Anyway, as to my recent activities . . . I have been doing deplorably little. I haven't investigated potential colleges, I haven't looked for a job, I haven't really been sightseeing, and I haven't done much at all to enrich my mind.

It hasn't been all bad, though. Since we moved, I have read much more than I usually do. I re-read the autobiography of Charlie Chaplin (Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin!); I skimmed through Jane Eyre, Shirley, and some Narnia books; I read War and Peace (well, most of it), La Reine Margot, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a volume of my paternal grandfather's memoirs, and various parts of my paternal grandmother's memoirs; and I am currently reading some "Erzählungen aus den Tausendundein Nächten" (Tales from the Thousand and One Arabian Nights).

I enjoyed most of War and Peace very much. I found that Tolstoy did an unusually good job with the characters and their growth over the years. Pierre's journey was especially interesting to follow. Above all, I think that there is a lot of truth in the characters, the situations, and the events. Tolstoy obviously observed his surroundings well, and wrote about them honestly and in detail, without straying too far either into gloom or into happiness and perfection.

I confess that I skipped most of the parts about Napoleon (as well as analagous parts about the Russian side). They seemed too much like unnecessary interruptions — quite out of place. I know it is wrong and shallow of me to say that. War and Peace is clearly meant to be — as far as possible — a complete picture of the times, and the chapters about Napoleon, etc., have their function and their interest, just as all the others do. Oh, well. I'll be more patient and appreciative next time.

Concerning Wuthering Heights, my main impression is that there was an odd sort of surreal, oppressive atmosphere about it at times. As unpleasant as the characters' situation generally was, they hardly ever gave a serious thought to escape. Yet, if I had been in their situation, surrounded by bitter, troubled, cruel people, escape would have been my first and overwhelming impulse.

In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is lighter in general, the main character does escape, only to marry the rather disagreeable narrator. Pff! I wasn't particularly impressed with the main character anyway. Too much idealization, and too little depth, I would say. As for the characters in Wuthering Heights, they certainly weren't idealized, but they seemed rather too unbalanced to be realistic. People aren't really like that, are they? Well, maybe if they live in such an isolated manner out in the moors . . .

The part of my grandfather's memoirs that I read was about his experiences during World War II. The volume starts out near the end of 1938, when my grandfather was training with his artillery regiment in Potsdam. It goes on to cover the invasion of Poland and France, and the campaigns in Russia and Italy, as seen through my grandfather's eyes. During most of the war, he was a radio operator; he purposely avoided becoming an officer (except near the end of the war), so that he wouldn't be put in a position where he would be forced to act against his conscience. On the whole, I found the memoirs highly interesting, both on a historical and on a more personal level. Through reading them, I have gained a new appreciation for my grandfather's calm, humorous, philosophical nature.

My grandmother's memoirs seem to be more extensive than my grandfather's, and there is truly a wealth of anecdotes and of insights into my grandmother's thoughts and feelings. Unsurprisingly, I was particularly interested in the parts that dealt with my father and his siblings when they were young. It is odd to think that my parents have had so many experiences of which I am ignorant. There are whole sides and depths to them that are unknown to me.

The memoirs and the tales from the Arabian Nights are in German, by the way. I'm glad that I am actually reading German things. I was a little worried that I would lazily stick to English books or, if anything, French books. But then, reading German has never been my greatest difficulty. Speaking it, on the other hand . . . Oh, well. It isn't that bad.

Anyway, enough about reading. I have also been practicing piano quite regularly (every day, or nearly that). I still mostly play Clementi sonatinas and pieces from my RCM repertoire. Nothing particularly extraordinary, I'm afraid. I haven't been playing as much recorder because I keep feeling self-conscious about it. High notes make me wince, and I really don't play well if I don't play with conviction. I would much prefer practicing in private, where I don't have to worry about others' reactions. To be fair, no one has ever given me the impression that my recorder playing bothers them — quite the opposite actually. Then again, I never claimed to be acting reasonably. I'm sure I'll get over it soon enough. It would help if the weather warms up again so that there isn't as much condensation. Stupid condensation!

Apart from music, I have recently learned the locations of most of the countries in the world (specifically, countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Oceania — I already knew most of the countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia). I've also learned the locations of all the states in the US. All thanks to this informative and entertaining website. My next geography-related task should really be to learn about the Länder of Germany, their capitals, etc. As it is, I only have vague ideas, which will not do if I am to live here for the "foreseeable future."

Hmm hmm. I am getting tired. Needless to say, it is not "late evening" any more — more like "late night" or "early morning." That's what comes from writing so slowly. I had hoped to write about the recent family reunion, but it seems rather a difficult task to undertake at this hour. Some other day, perhaps.


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